In the summer of 1999, Joe Jackson decided, "just for the hell of it",
to do a series of small club shows in New York City with two old friends,
bassist Graham Maby and drummer Gary Burke. The trio learned a lot of
songs, then went out and "winged it" - each show was completely spontaneous
(played with no set list) and each show was completely different. Five
of the shows were recorded.
The trio's repertoire consisted of new arrangements of songs from Joe's
whole career, and covers of songs by some of his favorite artists, from
Duke Ellington through David Bowie and Steely Dan to Radiohead. Some
new songs were also previewed, including some from Joe's upcoming NIGHT
AND DAY II (to be released Autumn 2000).
The album's title track, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was chosen simply because
it seemed appropriate for the blistering New York August in which it
was recorded. Other cover versions were intertwined with Joe's own songs:
FOOLS IN LOVE segues in and out of the old Yardbirds hit FOR YOUR LOVE,
which has similar chord changes and a similar theme of romantic desperation.
DOWN TO LONDON, with its evocation of "Swinging Sixties" London, is
combined with a version of the Ramsey Lewis Trio's 1965 classic THE
MOOD INDIGO is a Duke Ellington tribute on the occasion of the jazz
legend's 100th birthday. Steely Dan's KING OF THE WORLD, from COUNTDOWN
TO ECSTASY (one of the most influential albums of Joe's early musical
life) is performed as a medley with Joe's own YOU CAN'T GET WHAT YOU
WANT (TILL YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT). And the Beatles' ELEANOR RIGBY becomes
a haunting piano and bass duet.
Some of Joe's other songs have been radically re-arranged, too. ANOTHER
WORLD contains a completely unplanned (and brilliant) Graham Maby bass
solo, and HOME TOWN is performed by Joe alone, in a version which he
prefers to the original (on the BIG WORLD album). OBVIOUS SONG (from
LAUGHTER AND LUST), BE MY NUMBER TWO (from BODY AND SOUL), and IT'S
DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (from I'M THE MAN) are closer to the original versions,
but if anything more authentic, since they are driven by Joe's own piano
instead of someone else's guitars. The last track on Joe's latest album
is a frantic version of the first track on his first: ONE MORE TIME.
SUMMER IN THE CITY is the first release on Joe's own label, MANTICORE,
in association with Sony Classical.